Church Discipline: First Degree

church-discipline-1Church discipline is severely misunderstood. When used properly, it is exactly what the Christian who is sinning needs. When used improperly, it can irrevocably damage the soul of a person, and it is absolutely excruciating to that person. Let me explain why God wrote this specific order, and why disobeying this order is grievous to God.

Let’s spell out the first degree so that there is no mistaking it:

“And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matthew 18:1)

First degree church discipline is fabulous. If more people used it instead of jumping to second or third degree, this life would be grand. First degree means that a person sinned. Without telling anyone else their offense against you, go to that person in private and let them know their sin.

Wow. This is staggering. God wrote this. Everyone forgets first degree because it’s awesome. Nobody gets hurt. No one is slandered, no poison is spread, there is no public disgrace. If you are the one sinning, you are SO HAPPY that the person came to you in private, because you can talk things over.

Believe it or not, MOST of the time when you perceive that someone sinned against you, it is simply a misunderstanding. That person did not mean to hurt your feelings. Assume the best in people. If you twist what everybody says and mull it over for days until you’re furious, you are sinning way more than the other person anyway.

So go to that person in private. You’ve got to have guts to do this. God commands you to do this for your own good as well as for the good of that person who has offended you. You see, that person is blind to their sin, and you are the one that saw it. It’s up to you. If you do NOT go to that person, they will never know that they sinned. They will continue in their sin. And you are now responsible before God for their sin (Ezekiel 33:8-9). You are guilty of sinning against God for not telling them. And they will continue to wallow in their sin because no one loves them enough to tell them to stop.

(Stay tuned for second degree church discipline…)

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16 Responses to “Church Discipline: First Degree”

  1. What? When gossip is so much easier? 🙂 For sure I agree this is rarely done!

  2. Andrea says:

    and isn’t it the responsiblity of all the church to correct their brethren in love?

  3. Melissa says:

    Unfortunately we are a society of cowards. We fear confrontation. Even gentle and in-love confrontation. Jesus was a phenomenal example of confrontation.

    • Susan says:

      That’s true. Jesus knew how to deal with each person: gentle with those that were open to Him, and harsh to leaders who already thought they were right with God when they weren’t.

  4. You are so right that we tend to shy away from obeying this injunction. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Susan says:

      We need more courage to be gentle and still confront if there is sin and we have already asked for God’s timing in telling them.

  5. So true. I loved the part where you commented how most of the time it’s a misunderstanding. If we go to the person privately it can be handled and dealt with easily. But when we skip that- something that was small is now grand.

  6. Lori says:

    It’s just easier to not confront others and let things go. But it’s plainly written in the scripture we are to go privately and handle it. Life would be so much easier if people (me) if we followed God’s command.

  7. Donna says:

    I am definitely one of those people that likes to get things out in the open and discussed instead of just complaining behind someone’s back. Because, like you said, a lot of times it’s just a misunderstanding. I think motives can make a big difference in how we approach other people. Whether to restore or break down …

  8. Diana says:

    Go to the person in private .Many -a – times believers translate it as go to the public with someone else’s private offense .

    I love this post

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